Twenty or so years ago, I met the one person who probably changed my life more than any other person. I have written about Marco, Papi, before. But he was a big personality, so he deserves another installment. Today would be his 48th birthday, if he hadn’t left us so abruptly a year and a half ago. I miss him. A lot.

People were drawn to Papi. He had a big smile and a big heart that always had room for more people. He loved talking, a lot. Most of what I heard out of him was BS, but I had a special filter when it came to his nonsense. He was a genuine guy, I just heard BS. One of my favorite things about him, really.

We worked together, but really the first time around we didn’t work together for very long. I can’t exactly remember how long, and I think that is because Papi kept me drunk most of the time. (He isn’t here to correct the story, so I tell it how I want, and he got me drunk.) I was in my early 30s and still hadn’t figured out how being a grown-up worked, and he wasn’t looking to help me mature at all. We had a lot of fun, he introduced me to his friends and family, and therefore introduced me to a Mexican culture that was warm and welcoming, and again, drunk.

Papi came and went a lot. He went for a while to Florida with a buddy, and they lived and worked down there for a while. Having a cell phone was still a newer thing back then, and he loved talking on the phone, so I would get random phone calls all the time from him. I can’t say for sure if we ever talked about anything of substance, but it sure seemed important. I loved hearing from him, and he eventually moved back. He had a little gypsy spirit about him, and the fact that we kept a friendship going while he roamed around meant the world to me.

When I found myself needing a job 10 years ago, his brother was opening the Appleton Solea, and I called him and asked if they needed anyone. Boom, I had a job on the spot. Being a part of Papi’s world made you family, and he made me a bigger part of that family in a hot minute. All of a sudden we were working together again and it felt like coming home. He was a giant pain in my ass, mind you, but I loved that guy, so I may say that now, but I loved every minute of it.

His big personality came with big vices, and he loved eating and drinking in a grand way. All of that added up, and even though he would occasionally try to slow the roll, it wouldn’t be enough in the long run. His death hit hard, and it still does. There are days I can’t believe I will never get an annoying text or phone call from him again. His family and friends all feel it too. That’s a big gaping hole when you lose someone that large, it won’t get filled ever, but having a person that gave that much to you almost makes it ok once they’re gone. My life is better for having had that man in my life, even if he didn’t stick around nearly long enough. Jerk.

Happy Birthday Papi. Feliz Cumpleanos Amigo. I won’t let this day pass today, or ever, without celebrating you in some way. The hole in my heart is still there, but love pours out of it thanks to what you brought to my life. Thank you for teaching me stupid phrases in Spanish, teaching me things about chickens that are not correct, and for always being a giant pussy. I miss you forever. Salud!

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